Stranger with a Familiar Face

Submitted into Contest #96 in response to: Write about someone welcoming a stranger into their home.... view prompt


Fiction Horror Suspense

We cannot let our pasts define who we are. I know that you, as you are reading this are thinking of at least one mistake that you wish you could go back and change. The truth is you cannot. You cannot make up for it, you cannot make amends. All you can do is look to the future and be the person today that you want to be then. If we let the past haunt us, it will live with us and suffocate any possible future.

Preston was guilty of this. If he would have let his demons lie in the past his future would have been promising. For him, it all began and ended with a gradual knock at his front door. If Preston would have known that he was letting in the resurrection of his past, he would have never opened the door to his home. He would have just stayed in bed and remained content with the persistent noise.

Preston moved out of his mom and stepdad’s house when he was eighteen. Ever since his dad passed away it had become more than a broken home. The stench of alcohol polluted the air and instead of T.V. droning on in the background he could hear his stepfather screaming at his mother and younger brother for whatever reason he could think of. Preston knew that his mother had chosen her own fate, but his twelve-year-old brother Lyle had no choice. As soon as he could, Preston would return for him.

Preston was an intelligent, young man who had made a decent living for himself early in life. He learned the stock markets at a young age thanks to his uncle. His tenacity was driven by some day, providing a better life for him and his brother. As soon as he could invest, he did. In four years, Preston turned five thousand dollars into half a million dollars. This was not his passion though. Preston’s passion was farming just like his bereaved father.

As soon as Preston turned twenty-two, he withdrew all his money and bought his dream farm in Plato Missouri. The property had 230 acres and a beautiful two-story house. Preston spent a couple of months mending fence, building pens and proper shelter. He purchased a couple of rams and half of the sheep he bought were already pregnant. He bought a steer to butcher and some chickens and a couple of roosters. Preston put the animals there first and moved in a couple of weeks later.

The strange occurrences started with Preston’s first night sleeping inside his new home. He laid awake staring at the ceiling. He could hear the soft patter of rain outside while thunder rumbled in the distance. While living in Springfield Missouri he had a playlist he would use to drown out the outside world. It always put him to sleep so easy then, but tonight the sounds beckoned restlessness and curiosity.

“Preston.” A sharp, barely audible whisper called out to him.

Preston sat up quickly in his bed. “…Hello?” He softly whispered back. Preston laid back down and put his mind at ease reminding himself that it was an old house, and he was not used to the quiet yet. In an apartment hearing voices on a regular basis was quite normal. A solitary mind’s imagination can tend to run wild.

“Preston!” this time his name was said more concise. He sat up in his bed once again. This time he knew that someone said his name. Someone familiar. Preston’s heart beat a little faster. “Hello!”

Preston heard a knock at his front door. Knock, knock, knock… Knock, knock, knock… Preston threw off his covers and ran downstairs. He went to his kitchen window and peered through the blinds to his front door. There was nobody there. Preston rubbed his eyes and looked again, still, nobody. Preston chalked it up to his imagination and went back upstairs to fall asleep.

The next morning Preston woke up feeling unrested. He still had responsibilities though. It was time to get up and take care of his animals. Preston took his ATV and drove around the place to check his fence. It was a good thing he did. The rain had softened the ground enough to fall a tree over his fence.

As he was cutting the tree out Preston noticed a sheep stand there, staring at him. “Hey there girl.” The sheep stood there blankly.

Whenever Preston finished cutting the tree out and started to fix the fence, he noticed that the sheep had not moved from her original spot. “You’re a creepy sheep, aren’t you?” Preston walked up to her and pet her on top of the head. “Go away now creepy sheep.”

Preston continued to work. While he was putting in his last fence tie he heard, “You could have saved me.”

Preston’s first instinct was to turn around and look at the sheep. She had gotten down on her knees and was about to deliver. Preston would have left her alone, but he could tell she was having trouble. He assisted the best he could and got the lamb out, but it was still born. As soon as the sheep was born, the mother rolled her eyes into the back of her head and passed away. Disappointed that this was the first birth on his new place Preston threw the sheep and the lamb in the creek so the crawfish could eat them.

The following weeks there Preston barely slept. He lost twelve lambs and their moms, half of his chickens and his steer. What really kept him up at night though was the knock at his front door. Every time he looked through his kitchen window, no matter how fast he ran, he saw nothing. He thought he was going insane. Preston finally thought of a conclusion. A conclusion that his gut told him was the wrong one, but at this point, his only option.

It was a quiet night. So quiet he could hear the mild ringing in his left ear from when his stepdad slapped him across the head as a child. This was strange since in the summer you could usually hear the spring peepers, or coyotes howling in the distance. Preston was thinking of this when he once again heard a knock at his front door. Knock, knock, knock… Knock, Knock, Knock…

Preston flew down the stairs, skipping most of them until he reached the bottom. As soon as he walked off the last step Preston felt lethargic, like he was trudging knee deep in mud. Like something knew the solution he had thought of for his problem. Preston paused halfway to the door and put his hands on his knees to catch his breath. “Stop!” A voice whispered. It was the same voice that called out his name the first night he had spent in the house.

“Who is it?” Preston replied. “Who’s here?”

“Stop!” the voice echoed repeatedly around the house. It grew louder until it finally screamed “STOP!” Then the voice was suddenly hushed by the knock at the front door. Knock, Knock, Knock… Knock, Knock, Knock…

Preston made his way to the door. He put his hand on the knob and it was warm to the touch. The longer he held on the hotter it become. He could not let go though, not until he turned it and opened the door. Deep down he knew this would be the only way the knocking would stop. Finally, whether it was because of the immense heat that started to sear his skin or his unaltered curiosity, he decided to open the door.

When he did, he saw his brother stand just beyond the threshold. Beaten to barely recognizable. “Lyle?” Preston swung the door open and invited his little brother in. “What are you doing here? What the hell happened to you?” Lyle did not reply.

Lyle was too young to drive. Preston wondered how he walked an hour and a half drive. How did he get beaten so badly? There was only one person that could possibly know the answer to his questions. Preston ran upstairs and called his mom. “Hey mom?”

“Who is this?” His mom answered half asleep.

Preston forgot it had been a couple of years since he talked to her. “It’s Preston.”

“Oh… hey Preston, what’s up?”

“Lyle’s here and he looks like someone beat him half to death.” There was a silent pause on the other side of the phone. “Mom?”

“Preston, that’s not funny. Lyle was beaten to death two years ago by the piece of shit that called himself your stepdad.” Then she hung up.

It all started rushing back to Preston. The funeral, the arguments with his mom, the sleepless nights riddled with guilt for not saving his brother soon enough. Then, he turned to the apparition. “Who are you?”

The apparition smiled and said, “You could have saved him.”

Preston was found the next day. A neighbor spotted him in a field close to the road. The neighbor walked up to the fence and immediately called an ambulance. There was no saving Preston. Not while the remaining sheep were devouring the last bit of meat on Preston’s bones.

June 05, 2021 02:26

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Vox Inanis
08:31 Jul 12, 2021

If you'd like to listen to this story, check out my video narrating it and two others! timestamps and credit to the author in the description. The author gave permission for this prompt to be included in the content of my video. Thank you!


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Vox Inanis
21:38 Jun 16, 2021

I liked this story a while ago, and was revisiting it thinking it would be a nice addition to a Youtube video I'm trying to throw together. I was wondering if it'd be okay if I narrated this story for the video, giving you credit for the story and leaving a link to it in the description? If you're interested or would like to discuss it further please let me know!


Dean Atlas
02:50 Jun 19, 2021

Yea, we could talk about that. How would you like to communicate?


Vox Inanis
03:53 Jun 24, 2021

We could keep replying here or if discord works better for you my handle is Vox Inanis#0001


Dean Atlas
04:04 Jun 24, 2021

I've never used discord. I looked at your YouTube channel. It seems like something new you're doing. I don't mind. I'd like to edit it one last time and give you the final through email if that is acceptable. What other stories would it be coupled with?


Vox Inanis
05:08 Jun 24, 2021

That would be awesome! My e-mail is After I get permission from a few other others I can send you links to all the stories yours would be coupled with!


Dean Atlas
05:28 Jun 24, 2021

That sounds great. I'll have it to you in the next few days.


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